CPA

2 tax credits just for small businesses may reduce your 2017 and 2018 tax bills

Tax credits reduce tax liability dollar-for-dollar, potentially making them more valuable than deductions, which reduce only the amount of income subject to tax. Maximizing available credits is especially important now that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has reduced or eliminated some tax breaks for businesses. Two still-available tax credits are especially for small businesses that provide certain employee benefits.

1. Credit for paying health care coverage premiums

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers a credit to certain small employers that provide employees with health coverage. Despite various congressional attempts to repeal the ACA in 2017, nearly all of its provisions remain intact, including this potentially valuable tax credit.

The maximum credit is 50% of group health coverage premiums paid by the employer, if it contributes at least 50% of the total premium or of a benchmark premium. For 2017, the full credit is available for employers with 10 or fewer full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) and average annual wages of $26,200 or less per employee. Partial credits are available on a sliding scale to businesses with fewer than 25 FTEs and average annual wages of less than $52,400.

The credit can be claimed for only two years, and they must be consecutive. (Credits claimed before 2014 don’t count, however.) If you meet the eligibility requirements but have been waiting to claim the credit until a future year when you think it might provide more savings, claiming the credit for 2017 may be a good idea. Why? It’s possible the credit will go away in the future if lawmakers in Washington continue to try to repeal or replace the ACA.

At this point, most likely any ACA repeal or replacement wouldn’t go into effect until 2019 (or possibly later). So if you claim the credit for 2017, you may also be able to claim it on your 2018 return next year (provided you again meet the eligibility requirements). That way, you could take full advantage of the credit while it’s available.

2. Credit for starting a retirement plan

Small employers (generally those with 100 or fewer employees) that create a retirement plan may be eligible for a $500 credit per year for three years. The credit is limited to 50% of qualified start-up costs.

Of course, you generally can deduct contributions you make to your employees’ accounts under the plan. And your employees enjoy the benefit of tax-advantaged retirement saving.

If you didn’t create a retirement plan in 2017, you might still have time to do so. Simplified Employee Pensions (SEPs) can be set up as late as the due date of your tax return, including extensions. If you’d like to set up a different type of plan, consider doing so for 2018 so you can potentially take advantage of the retirement plan credit (and other tax benefits) when you file your 2018 return next year.

Determining eligibility

Keep in mind that additional rules and limits apply to these tax credits. We’d be happy to help you determine whether you’re eligible for these or other credits on your 2017 return and also plan for credits you might be able to claim on your 2018 return if you take appropriate actions this year.

© 2018

Meals, entertainment and transportation may cost businesses more under the TCJA

Along with tax rate reductions and a new deduction for pass-through qualified business income, the new tax law brings the reduction or elimination of tax deductions for certain business expenses. Two expense areas where the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes the rules — and not to businesses’ benefit — are meals/entertainment and transportation. In effect, the reduced tax benefits will mean these expenses are more costly to a business’s bottom line.

Meals and entertainment

Prior to the TCJA, taxpayers generally could deduct 50% of expenses for business-related meals and entertainment. Meals provided to an employee for the convenience of the employer on the employer’s business premises were 100% deductible by the employer and tax-free to the recipient employee.

Under the new law, for amounts paid or incurred after December 31, 2017, deductions for business-related entertainment expenses are disallowed.

Meal expenses incurred while traveling on business are still 50% deductible, but the 50% limit now also applies to meals provided via an on-premises cafeteria or otherwise on the employer’s premises for the convenience of the employer. After 2025, the cost of meals provided through an on-premises cafeteria or otherwise on the employer’s premises will no longer be deductible.

Transportation

The TCJA disallows employer deductions for the cost of providing commuting transportation to an employee (such as hiring a car service), unless the transportation is necessary for the employee’s safety.

The new law also eliminates employer deductions for the cost of providing qualified employee transportation fringe benefits. Examples include parking allowances, mass transit passes and van pooling. These benefits are, however, still tax-free to recipient employees.

Transportation expenses for employee work-related travel away from home are still deductible (and tax-free to the employee), as long as they otherwise qualify for such tax treatment. (Note that, for 2018 through 2025, employees can’t deduct unreimbursed employee business expenses, such as travel expenses, as a miscellaneous itemized deduction.)

Assessing the impact

The TCJA’s changes to deductions for meals, entertainment and transportation expenses may affect your business’s budget. Depending on how much you typically spend on such expenses, you may want to consider changing some of your policies and/or benefits offerings in these areas. We’d be pleased to help you assess the impact on your business.

© 2018

Tax Exempt Organizations Disaster Relief Written Acknowledgements

by Karen Atchley, CPA

Partner at Atchley & Associates, LLP

The Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017 was signed into law on September 28, 2017 (hereafter referred to as The Disaster Tax Relief Act).  The legislation provides tax relief to the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and funds the Federal Aviation Administration through March 2018.

Although this new law affects individuals and employers, the purpose of this paper is to advise tax exempt organizations concerning one specific area of the new law relating to issuance of charitable contribution acknowledgement letters.  The law added a temporary suspension of the adjusted gross income (AGI) limitations that are imposed on qualified charitable contributions. The taxpayer must make an election for the temporary suspension of the AGI limitations to apply.

 In general, the law prior to the September 28, 2017 legislation provides that individual’s cash contributions are deductible in any one year up to 50% of AGI and noncash contributions are deductible in any one year up to either 20% or 30% of AGI.  Contributions limited by AGI are carried forward to subsequent years for up to five years.

A qualified charitable contribution under the new law is a contribution that was paid during the period beginning August 23, 2017 and ending on December 31, 2017, in cash to an organization described in section 170(b)(1)(A), for relief efforts in the Hurricane Harvey, Irma, or Maria disaster areas.  The contribution must be substantiated with a contemporaneous written acknowledgement from the charitable organization that states that the contribution was or is to be used for relief efforts.

Most charitable organizations are aware of Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 170(f)(8)(A), which requires that the organization must provide the donor with a written acknowledgement of the donor contribution if the contribution was for $250 or more.  IRC Section 6115 requires the charitable organization to provide the donor with a written statement if a contribution is made for $75 or more if part of the contribution is for goods or services (quid pro quo) and the statement must contain a good-faith estimate of the value of goods and services that the charity has provided to the donor.  What charitable organizations may not know is that The Disaster Tax Relief Act requires written acknowledgement that not only states that the contribution was or is to be used for relief efforts but also requires a letter to the donor regardless of the size of the contribution.

In summary, charitable organizations that collected funds that were collected during 2017 and used in the relief efforts in the Hurricane Harvey, Irma or Maria disaster areas will want to start working on their acknowledgement letters for 2017 early in 2018 since all qualified relief contributions require an acknowledgement letter.

Note: Regulations may subsequently be issued that affect this provision of the tax law.  Check with your tax advisor to determine whether any subsequent tax law changes are made.  This paper is not intended to address all the provisions of The Disaster Relief Act but only the provision relating to the issuance of written acknowledgements.

How to conduct a year-end risk assessment

Auditors assess their clients’ risk factors when planning for next year’s financial statement audit. Likewise, proactive managers assess risks at year end. A so-called “SWOT” analysis can help frame that assessment.

Typically presented as a matrix, this analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats provides a logical framework for understanding how a business runs. It tells what you’re doing right (and wrong) and predicts what outside forces could impact cash flow in a positive (or negative) manner.

Internal factors

SWOT analysis starts by identifying strengths and weaknesses from the customer’s perspective. Strengths represent potential areas for boosting revenues and building value, including core competencies or competitive advantages. Examples might include a strong brand image, a loyal customer base or exceptional customer service.

It’s important to unearth the source of each strength. When strengths are largely tied to people, rather than the business itself, consider what might happen if a key person suddenly left the business. To offset key person risks, consider:

  • Purchasing life insurance policies on key people,
  • Initiating noncompete or buy-sell agreements, or
  • Implementing a formal succession plan designed to transition management to the next generation.

Weaknesses represent potential risks and should be minimized or eliminated. They might include high employee turnover, weak internal controls, unreliable quality or a location with poor accessibility. Often weaknesses are evaluated relative to the company’s competitors.

Outside influences

The next part of a SWOT analysis looks externally at what’s happening in the industry, economy and regulatory environment. Opportunities are favorable external conditions that could increase revenues and value if the company acts on them before its competitors do.

Threats are unfavorable conditions that might prevent your company from achieving its goals. Threats might come from the economy, technological changes, competition and increased regulation. The idea is to watch for and minimize existing and potential threats.

Need help?

Contact us for help putting your company’s risk framework together. We can guide you on how to use SWOT analysis to evaluate 2017 financial results and plan for the future.

© 2017

Tax planning critical when buying a business

If you acquire a company, your to-do list will be long, which means you can’t devote all of your time to the deal’s potential tax implications. However, if you neglect tax issues during the negotiation process, the negative consequences can be serious. To improve the odds of a successful acquisition, it’s important to devote resources to tax planning before your deal closes.

Complacency can be costly

During deal negotiations, you and the seller should discuss such issues as whether and how much each party can deduct their transaction costs and how much in local, state and federal tax obligations the parties will owe upon signing the deal. Often, deal structures (such as asset sales) that typically benefit buyers have negative tax consequences for sellers and vice versa. So it’s common for the parties to wrangle over taxes at this stage.

Just because you seem to have successfully resolved tax issues at the negotiation stage doesn’t mean you can become complacent. With adequate planning, you can spare your company from costly tax-related surprises after the transaction closes and you begin to integrate the acquired business. Tax management during integration can also help your company capture synergies more quickly and efficiently.

You may, for example, have based your purchase price on the assumption that you’ll achieve a certain percentage of cost reductions via postmerger synergies. However, if your taxation projections are flawed or you fail to follow through on earlier tax assumptions, you may not realize such synergies.

Merging accounting functions

One of the most important tax-related tasks is the integration of your seller’s and your own company’s accounting departments. There’s no time to waste: You generally must file federal and state income tax returns — either as a combined entity or as two separate sets — after the first full quarter following your transaction’s close. You also must account for any short-term tax obligations arising from your acquisition.

To ensure the two departments integrate quickly and are ready to prepare the required tax documents, decide well in advance of closing which accounting personnel you’ll retain. If you and your seller use different tax processing software or follow different accounting methods, choose between them as soon as feasible. Understand that, if your acquisition has been using a different accounting method, you’ll need to revise the company’s previous tax filings to align them with your own accounting system.

The tax consequences of M&A decisions may be costly and could haunt your company for years. We can help you ensure you plan properly and minimize any potentially negative tax consequences.

© 2017

Grant Funding and the Benefit of Single Audits

by Jeremy Myers, CPA

Audit Senior Manager at Atchley & Associates, LLP

 

Austin has a growing population of non-profit organizations who receive grant funds, which can be federal or state sourced and can come in many different sources: Grants, Loans, usages of land, and food / other commodities.  While the receipt of these funds helps organizations meet the needs of the community and reach their missions/goals, there are a number of other requirements that organizations may face.

Grant Monitoring and Reporting

Once an organization receives grant funds, they are typically subject to monitoring from the grantor.  Most grant contracts include either optional or required monitoring.  This monitoring can be performed by the granting agency or by a third party that the granting agency hires to perform monitoring.  This would be in addition to any reports required by the grantors to fill out.  Grant Reporting can range from monthly reimbursement requests, quarterly or annual performance reporting, or cost reports.

Necessary Non-Grant Funding

Many of the non-profit organizations in Austin have to review the requirements of the grant funds they receive and their own ability to meet those requirements.  These requirements may have limitations on both on a time and financial basis.  While organizations will want to receive grant funding, they have to look at the time required to fill out any reporting, keeping records of how the funds were spent, detailed records of those helped, and any necessary hiring and training of the staff to fulfill the grant’s purpose.  Also many grants do not cover some of these necessary items and the organization may not have the resources on its own to cover the costs of running programs in which the grant does not specifically allow.  Non-profits typically have to depend on public support to fill in the gaps the grants do not cover.

Requirements for Uniform Guidance Audit

If an organization who receives federal or state grant funding and expends $750,000 or more, in one year, of federal or state funding (looking at just federal or just state funds, not combined) is required to have an audit under Title 2 U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements of Federal Awards, also known as Uniform Guidance.  For example, if an organization receives a $1,000,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services and spends $600,000 in year 1 and $400,000 in year 2 – this organization would not be required to have an audit under Uniform Guidance.  But if that same organization spends $800,000 in year 1 and $200,000 in year 2, they would meet the requirements to have an audit performed under Uniform Guidance.  The main trigger is spending the funds, not receiving the funds, which under the accrual method of accounting means that you will need to account for those expense incurred but not reimbursed during the organization’s fiscal year.  If you are unsure if the funds you have received are subject to Uniform Guidance, you should inquire to the granting agency and look for Catalog Of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) numbers associated with the grant you have received.  Each grant should be tracked by their CFDA numbers as that number will be how the grant funds are presented on the Schedule of Expenditures of Federal or State Awards (SEFA or SESA).

Benefits of a Single Audit

If an organization is subject to a Uniform Guidance audit, then it would be required to go under a full financial and Uniform Guidance audit, also known as a Single Audit.  The term “Single Audit” is used to refer to the idea that an organization would only have to go through one audit versus multiple monitoring by different grantors and could meet any requirements from outside lenders.  The benefits of having a Single Audit performed are:

  • Your organization will have met the requirements of receiving federal or state funding
  • Having an objective view of your organization’s internal controls over both financial and grant programs,
  • Your organization will have audited financial statements that they can use to obtain future funding from both public sources and if necessary from financial institutions.
  • Making sure that your organization is using industry best practices across all aspects of the organization, not just grant or financial reporting
  • Grantors may choose to rely on the results of the Single Audit, the organization may save time from going through additional monitoring.
  • Since one firm can perform a Single Audit, it can be performed in conjunction with your financial audit, there is some dual purpose testing that can be performed that would bring efficiency to the entire Single Audit process.
  • Finally, all Single Audits are uploaded to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse (https://harvester.census.gov/facweb/) and organizations fulfill the requirements of making their financial statements available to the public and to their current and future grantors.

 

If you have any additional questions about Single Audits or requirements under Uniform Guidance, please feel free to reach out to Jeremy Myers (JMyers@atchleycpas.com).

3 midyear tax planning strategies for business

Tax reform has been a major topic of discussion in Washington, but it’s still unclear exactly what such legislation will include and whether it will be signed into law this year. However, the last major tax legislation that was signed into law — back in December of 2015 — still has a significant impact on tax planning for businesses. Let’s look at three midyear tax strategies inspired by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act:

  1. Buy equipment. The PATH Act preserved both the generous limits for the Section 179 expensing election and the availability of bonus depreciation. These breaks generally apply to qualified fixed assets, including equipment or machinery, placed in service during the year. For 2017, the maximum Sec. 179 deduction is $510,000, subject to a $2,030,000 phaseout threshold. Without the PATH Act, the 2017 limits would have been $25,000 and $200,000, respectively. Higher limits are now permanent and subject to inflation indexing.

Additionally, for 2017, your business may be able to claim 50% bonus depreciation for qualified costs in excess of what you expense under Sec. 179. Bonus depreciation is scheduled to be reduced to 40% in 2018 and 30% in 2019 before it’s set to expire on December 31, 2019.

  1. Ramp up research. After years of uncertainty, the PATH Act made the research credit permanent. For qualified research expenses, the credit is generally equal to 20% of expenses over a base amount that’s essentially determined using a historical average of research expenses as a percentage of revenues. There’s also an alternative computation for companies that haven’t increased their research expenses substantially over their historical base amounts.

In addition, a small business with $50 million or less in gross receipts may claim the credit against its alternative minimum tax (AMT) liability. And, a start-up company with less than $5 million in gross receipts may claim the credit against up to $250,000 in employer Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes.

  1. Hire workers from “target groups.” Your business may claim the Work Opportunity credit for hiring a worker from one of several “target groups,” such as food stamp recipients and certain veterans. The PATH Act extended the credit through 2019. It also added a new target group: long-term unemployment recipients.

Generally, the maximum Work Opportunity credit is $2,400 per worker. But it’s higher for workers from certain target groups, such as disabled veterans.

One last thing to keep in mind is that, in terms of tax breaks, “permanent” only means that there’s no scheduled expiration date. Congress could still pass legislation that changes or eliminates “permanent” breaks. But it’s unlikely any of the breaks discussed here would be eliminated or reduced for 2017. To keep up to date on tax law changes and get a jump start on your 2017 tax planning, contact us.

© 2017

Accounting Services: Should I consider this service for my business?

by Liana Ellison, CPA

Accounting Services Manager at Atchley & Associates, LLP

 

Atchley & Associates, LLP provides accounting services of various levels to many of our clients. The levels of services vary from consulting with startup companies about their accounting set up all the way to outsourcing their accounting department to us. We are able to provide a custom level of service to meet our client’s needs. Some of the accounting services we provide at Atchley & Associates include:

  • Outsourced payroll, set up, reporting, support and consulting
  • Outsourced bookkeeping, reconciliations of accounts such as bank, credit cards, loans and lines of credit, and preparation of any adjusting journal entries
  • Review of systems utilized and internal processes, and make recommendations of accounting platforms and ancillary applications
  • Customized Financial Statement preparation
  • Preparation or support for various compliance such as personal property renditions, Forms 1099, and Sales Tax
  • Year-end accounting analysis and clean-up in preparation for tax return

In addition, our team can take the pressure off business owners or executive directors that may not have the expertise or time to review and supervise the work performed by their accounting department.  These leaders may not want to deal with having to worry about turnover or fraud in this critical position, and often engage us to support them in this area of their business or organization.

Our services are not specific to any one industry, therefore we are able to support various types of service industries including a number of non-profit clients.

I’ve put together some recent questions that our group has received and compiled them into a True or False Quiz as examples of how we support our client. As in every case, that correct answer is- “it depends”. However, you may find some helpful information for your business or line of work.

  1. A client inquired, I receive a cell phone allowance with my payroll of $50 a month, this taxable compensation to me- true or false?

False- this can be considered non-taxable compensation, as a non-tax fringe benefit IF

– The employer has an accountable plan and

– There is a business connection for the cell phone use and

– The allowance does not exceed the cost of employee’s monthly plan (requires substantiation). Any excess allowance would be considered taxable compensation.

  i. IRS Notice 2011-72

  1. I had the privilege to attend the Rotary scholarship luncheon last month with our partner, Harold Ingersoll, where Rotarians gave out over $43K in scholarships towards recipient’s tuition and higher learning. The Rotary Club of Austin is not required to issue a 1099 to these recipients for the amount received- true or false?

True- the Rotary Club of Austin is not required to issue scholarship recipients a 1099 since these funds were not in connection with any services performed for teaching, research or other services as a condition for receiving the scholarship. It may not prevent the recipient from picking it up as income on their personal return, but nothing is required to be reported to the IRS by the Rotary Club of Austin.

  i. Sec 117(b) and Regulations section 1.6041-3(n), Tax Topic 421

  1. I have an hourly (non-exempt) employee therefore I am only required to pay them at least once a month in the state of Texas- True or False?

False- per Texas Pay Day Law hourly (non-exempt) employees must be paid at least twice a month.

  i. Texas Payday Law section 61.011

  1. I bought a used iPad mini for my business for $199. Since the cost is less than $250, I don’t need to report this property on the Personal Property Rendition for Travis County– true or false?

False- per Travis County Appraisal District, ALL business personal property that is used in business must be rendered on the form, regardless of the amount.

  1. I just started a new business and have chosen QuickBooks Online as the application to provide record keeping for my business because I have heard it’s the best in the market- True or False?

Trick question- You might receive a different answer depending on who you ask. There are several new applications on the market that compare to QuickBooks Online. However, QuickBooks still retains a large portion of the small business market.

  i. Contact us to find out what might be the right fit for your business.

You can leverage our services for more answers to these types of questions in addition to receiving accurate reporting and record keeping.  Contact us for more information on how we can help your business.

 

Business owners: When it comes to IRS audits, be prepared

If you recently filed your 2016 income tax return (rather than filing for an extension) you may now be wondering whether it’s likely that your business could be audited by the IRS based on your filing. Here’s what every business owner should know about the process.

Catching the IRS’s eye

Many business audits occur randomly, but a variety of tax-return-related items are likely to raise red flags with the IRS and may lead to an audit. Here are a few examples:

  • Significant inconsistencies between previous years’ filings and your most current filing,
  • Gross profit margin or expenses markedly different from those of other businesses in your industry, and
  • Miscalculated or unusually high deductions.

An owner-employee salary that’s inordinately higher or lower than those in similar companies in his or her location can also catch the IRS’s eye, especially if the business is structured as a corporation.

Response measures

If you’re selected for an audit, you’ll be notified by letter. Generally, the IRS won’t make initial contact by phone. But if there’s no response to the letter, the agency may follow up with a call.

The good news is that many audits simply request that you mail in documentation to support certain deductions you’ve taken. Others may ask you to take receipts and other documents to a local IRS office. Only the most severe version, the field audit, requires meeting with one or more IRS auditors.

More good news: In no instance will the agency demand an immediate response. You’ll be informed of the discrepancies in question and given time to prepare. To do so, you’ll need to collect and organize all relevant income and expense records. If any records are missing, you’ll have to reconstruct the information as accurately as possible based on other documentation.

If the IRS selects you for an audit, our firm can help you:

  • Understand what the IRS is disputing (it’s not always crystal clear),
  • Gather the specific documents and information needed, and
  • Respond to the auditor’s inquiries in the most expedient and effective manner.

Don’t let an IRS audit ruin your year — be it this year, next year or whenever that letter shows up in the mail. By taking a meticulous, proactive approach to how you track, document and file your company’s tax-related information, you’ll make an audit much less painful and even decrease the chances that one happens in the first place.

© 2017